Picadillo Over Rice is a traditional Cuban dish made with ground beef that’s typically eaten over white rice. A Latin comfort-food, this home-style skillet meal is simple and quick to make, with some referring to it as “hash”. I personally refer to it as CRACK….I cannot stop eating it!
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Picadillo has a wonderful combination of flavors – sweet, savory, salty, and sour, each one distinct and you’ll definitely experience this as you enjoy this ground beef meal. The ingredient list is a bit unusual so I was hesitant at first, but my good friend Ksenija Zeltkalns, said she had been making this dish since 1993 when she found the recipe in a little Pillsbury cookbook. I took her word for it, and I’ve never looked back – Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo is a SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS pan of WONDERFUL, folks.
We have also used the Picadillo filling combined with a bit of rice to make stuffed green peppers that we bake in the oven. I prefer to cut my bell peppers in half lengthwise (instead of setting the bell pepper up vertically with the top removed), filling each half with the Picadillo and rice filling. It seems they bake faster this way, and also, they are lots easier to eat! Once, I had just enough Picadillo to make a quesadilla with it – talk about yummy. Needless to say, Picadillo is pretty versatile.
What Ingredients Will You Need to Make Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo?
Opt for a lean ground beef, if possible. We’ve always got a big freezer full of ground beef, so I’m thrilled to have a good repertoire of ground beef recipes to call upon, including this one! The most important thing to remember when cooking the ground beef is to always begin with a hot skillet – you want the ground beef to SIZZLE when it hits the pan so you get really nice browning on your beef – this adds tons of flavor.
Secondly, be sure to drain any fats that accumulate when you’re cooking the ground beef; if you don’t do this step, you can end of with a greasy Picadillo and that’s not at all what you desire.
Onion, green bell pepper, garlic
These are the aromatics of your dish and they provide the flavor foundation. If you don’t have an onion or garlic cloves on hand, you may substitute granulated onion or dehydrated onion flakes and granulated garlic.
Canned whole tomatoes
Sometimes I substitute diced tomatoes or even sliced stewed tomatoes in place of the whole tomatoes. Use what you have on hand! And don’t drain the tomatoes – you will need the juice to keep the Picadillo nice and saucy for serving over the bed of rice.
Golden raisins are golden-colored dried grapes made from various white-fleshed grapes; they are typically smaller than dark raisins, slightly sweeter, and more mild in flavor. Use golden raisins in the same way you’d use dark raisins.
To make yellow raisins, the white grapes are dipped in warm water and then coated with sulfur dioxide to ensure they stay golden in color throughout the drying process. To dry them, the golden raisins are laid out on wooden trays where warm air is blown on them to speed up the drying process. All of this extra work explains the higher cost of golden raisins vs. dark raisins.
Green olives with brine
Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between green olives and black olives? Green olives tend to be denser, firmer, and more bitter than black olives. Black olives are much milder in flavor because they aren’t picked until they are fully ripened, which means they turn from green in color to black.
Green olives are picked before they ripen, while they are still bright green in color and have a very strong, bitter flavor. Both olives under go a curing process and they are then packed in salt, brine, or water to be eaten later.
We’ve nearly always got a sweet smokey BBQ sauce in the fridge, so that’s what we use for this recipe and it’s delicious when combined with all the other ingredients. I never would have believed it!
Capers are the unopened buds of the caper bush, grown primarily all over the Mediterranean, like olives do. Capers are pickled in vinegar or preserved in a brine, and are often used as a garnish, such as in Chicken Piccata. Capers add a bright, briny flavor to savory dishes. The smaller the caper, the earlier it was picked. Larger capers taste more flavorful but they have a different texture, almost more like that of a black olive.
Basmati or Jasmine rice
Jasmine and Basmati rice can be used interchangeably and make a great alternative to plain long grain white rice. They are both aromatic varieties of rice commonly used in a big variety of Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
Easy Recipe Tips for Making Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo with White Rice
What if I want to leave out the green olives? I’m not a fan of their flavor.
I’m not a huge green olive fan either, so I was leary of this ingredient in this dish at first, too, especially when thinking about combining the piquant olives with the sweet golden raisins. Somehow that just didn’t compute! Again, I just forged ahead with this recipe, determined to give it a chance just as it was written with every ingredient included. Please don’t skip the olives! Just leave them whole when you add them and if you give this dish a taste and decide they aren’t for you, you can push them to the side. I think you’re going to be surprised!
Can I use plain long grain white rice in this recipe instead of Basmati or Jasmine rice? I don’t usually have either of those types of rice on hand.
You sure can. The only reason I typically use Jasmine rice all the time now is because I just love the texture! It seemed that no matter how I cooked my regular long grain white rice, it came out mushy and just didn’t have the mouth-feel I wanted.
Can you really cook Jasmine or Basmati rice in just 3 minutes in the Instant Pot?
You sure can and I do it ALL the time. The Instant Pot (or any electric pressure cooker) makes a GREAT rice cooker and it comes out just the right texture and tenderness when cooking it for just 3 minutes with a bit of a natural release, followed by a quick release to remove all the pressure from the pot.
What is a good rice-to-liquid ratio to use?
When cooking Jasmine rice in my Instant Pot, I use a ratio of 1 1/2 parts water or broth to 1 part rice.
Your recipe specifically says to rinse the rice before cooking it. WHY is this such an important step?
Rinsing the rice before you cook it is a very important step that makes a BIG difference, especially when cooking long-grain varieties of rice. Rinsing the rice removes any debris that may be in with the rice, but even more importantly, rinsing the rice removes any surface starch which causes the cooked rice to clump together too much, often getting gummy as it cooks – YUCK. To settle this debate in my mind, I made two pots of rice – one was rinsed and one was not. The outcome was stunning! After that, I’ve rinsed my rice every single time before cooking – I get perfect, tender rice that’s a beautiful consistency every time now.
My family doesn’t like rice, for whatever reason. Is there something else I can use as the base for serving Picadillo?
I’m so glad you asked! We have made Picadillo and served it over mashed potatoes and it was absolutely divine. And, I think you could definitely serve Picadillo over cooked noodles or over cooked pasta, making it more of a goulash.
Does Picadillo make good leftovers?
To tell the truth, Picadillo is even better the next day! All the flavors have time to meld and it just gets more and more flavorful. We love having it for leftovers.
How can I make my Picadillo even more saucy?
Double up on the tomatoes (with juice) and add more BBQ sauce, plus a bit more brine from the olive jar. Once you made these additions, do a taste test to see if you need to make some adjustments. We like our Picadillo really saucy too!
If I’m making Picadillo on the stove top, what type of skillet is best?
I love my trusty 12″ cast iron skillet. Cast iron is inexpensive, heats up slowly so it really holds the heat well, has superior browning capabilities, and I like how evenly it cooks.
Printable Directions for Making Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo on the Stove Top OR in the Instant Pot!
Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 16 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained, chopped
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup green olives + 2 Tbs. olive brine
- 1/3-1/2 cup BBQ sauce, depending on how saucy you prefer
- 2-3 Tbs. capers, drained
- 3 cups hot cooked rice, I prefer Jasmine rice or Basmati rice, rinsed before cooking
Picadillo Made on the Stove Top
- In a large, hot skillet over medium high heat, crumble the ground beef, then add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic, browning the ground beef until it is cooked throughout and the veggies have softened; drain any excess fats from the skillet, then stir in the remaining ingredients, not including the cooked rice. Simmer the Picadillo over low heat for 30-35 minutes, to let the flavors combine. then serve over hot rice. Delish!!!
Picadillo Made in the Instant Pot (or any electric pressure cooker)
- Using the sauté setting on the Instant Pot, let the pot preheat a bit, then add the ground beef, crumbling it; add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic, browning the beef until it is cooked throughout and the veggies are softened; drain any excess fats from the pot. Stir in remaining ingredients, not including the rice. Lock the Instant Pot lid into place, choosing the high pressure setting for 3 minutes, bringing the Instant Pot to full pressure. When the timer sounds, use a natural release for 5 minutes, then a quick release to remove remaining pressure from the Instant Pot. Carefully unlock and remove the Instant Pot lid, giving the Picadillo a gentle stir. Serve at once over bowls of warm rice.
Rice Made in the Instant Pot
- Bring 2 1/4 cups of water or broth and 1 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil to a boil; stir in 1 1/2 cups RINSED jasmine or basmati rice. Lock the Instant Pot lid into place, choosing the high pressure setting for 3 minutes bringing the Instant Pot to full pressure. When the timer sounds, use a natural release for 1 minute followed by a quick release to remove any remaining pressure from the Instant Pot. Carefully unlock and remove the Instant Pot lid, fluffing the hot rice with a fork. Yield: approx. 3 cups cooked rice.
Rice Made on the Stove Top
- To make basmati or jasmine rice on the stove top in a sauce pan, follow the package instructions.
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